Signet Jewelers Ltd Earnings Call Nuggets: Total Sales Range Outlook and Product Cost Update

Signet Jewelers Ltd (NYSE:SIG) recently reported its fourth quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Total Sales Range Outlook

Simeon Siegel – JPMorgan: Ron, just given the timing shifts ahead related to the 53rd week, what’s the right implied total sales range for the first quarter within that 5% to 7% comp?

Ron Ristau – CFO: I’m sorry we didn’t give a total sales range so I can’t give it as we didn’t put it in the press release. It will be to 5% to 7% comp. I will point out that we do have this calendar shift of Mother’s Day coming back into the first quarter. That does not affect comp because of the way that comp calculation shift with the 53rd week. So, I just want to make that point. The comp performance we’re expecting is driven by the underlying performance of our business.

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Michael W. Barnes – CEO: This is Mike. Just to add to that, I think the right way to look at it is that the broad-based core business is really driving the underlying comp performance and the couple of shifts that we’ve had like the 53rd week or with the Mother’s Day really aren’t what’s driving that underlying comp.

Simeon Siegel – JPMorgan: Then Mike could just talk briefly about the low hanging fruit at Ultra? I mean is it as simple as just converting the signage upfront and then letting the Kay brand to the rest? I guess you guys are planning to convert by the middle of the year. I mean should we see accretion maybe earlier than that Q4 date?

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Michael W. Barnes – CEO: No, it’s not quite that simple. I wish that it were that simple, but there is a lot of things. What we’re doing is, we really are marrying the leverage and the equity that we have with the Kay brand name along with the expertise that Ultra has. They have over 100 outlet stores when we made this acquisition, which basically was triple the number of stores that we had more or less and so immediately it put us in a leadership position within the outlet store business, but they also brought a lot of expertise on running outlet stores and good ideas can come from anywhere. We are very pleased with a lot of what we’ve learned as we’ve been transitioning the Ultra Stores and we believe we’re going to be well-positioned. Having said all that, with the equity that Kay brings as we change the nameplates on stores, as we update the merchandise mix, for instance, we were able to get some Jane Seymour product into the Ultra Stores in time for Valentine’s Day and it was a great seller in those stores even without the Kay nameplate, so I think the change in merchandise mix, the equity that Kay name brings, and the expertise that Ultra brings in the outlet store channel, best strong combination that’s really going to help us drive that business higher and higher over time.

Ron Ristau – CFO: Just to follow-up on your point on accretion on Ultra. Again, we’re not expecting, it will actually be slightly dilutive in the first and second quarter as we’ve said repeatedly, so a couple of pennies each quarter and probably relatively flat maybe $0.01 in third and then we’re expecting it to start become accretive in the fourth quarter as we complete the program.

Product Cost Update

Lorraine Hutchinson – Bank of America Merrill Lynch: As we think about gross margin for this year and next, can you just provide an update on product costs and where those are versus last year?

Ron Ristau – CFO: It’s a very complex question. As you know, our product costs are really long-term averaging costs. We’re running FIFO inventory system, but it averages the cost of inventory over time. So that any movement in the commodity prices whether up or down is slowly reflected in the average cost as it moves through the system. It’s hard for me to predict exactly where cost will go in the future. You know it’s been happening with gold, we actually got a little break on gold this year, but diamonds we expect to start to accelerate again due to the pressures on demand really. So, I would say to you is whatever happens in cost as we move forward, our goal is to manage our gross merchandise margins by balancing cost increases with whatever price increases we need to take. It’s hard to be more specific than that because I don’t know how to predict costs going forward. So, we are always looking at it and making adjustments as we need. I’m sorry. I can’t be more specific about that.

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Lorraine Hutchinson – Bank of America Merrill Lynch: And have you raised prices so far this year?

Ron Ristau – CFO: We usually raise prices not so far, but we usually do a price increase somewhere between the first and second quarter of the year. That has been our historical trend. So, we intend to do that once again. That is correct.

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